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Locals celebrate bicentennial
Locals celebrate bicentennial
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
It wasn’t the weather Chardon is known for, but it seemed like no one who turned out for the weekend celebration of the community’s 200th birthday celebration was complaining.
Blue skies and fair temperatures greeted thousands who flocked to the combined township- and city-hosted parties that included food, games, music, a friendly softball competition, and a chance to meet with old friends or make new ones.
“Everybody I talked to after it said they loved it,” said City Manager Randal
Sharpe, who estimated that about 2,000 people arrived in the city for the last day of the celebration Sunday.
Some, however, questioned the choice of green and gold, rather than traditional red and black, for the celebration, Mr. Sharpe said. The green stems back to some of the earliest days of the community when it was the color of choice for a logo and the township and village, now city, were one. The gold was a complementary color, he said.
A community working together seemingly was evident in every aspect of the celebration.
Kim Talarcek, a heating and cooling technician, was there Friday with his wife, Debbie, who works as a dispatcher for the Chardon Police Department. Mr. Talarcek donated his time to be part of history, volunteering to help restore the landmark mural on the southwest side of Chardon Square.
“I am so honored to be part of this,” he said, adding he first saw the mural in 1975 while heading to classes at the Kent State University branch, then located on Chardon Square, and it became part of his life since then.
Having had no experience with an artist’s brush, Mr. Talarcek said, he was a little nervous, but gave it his best.
“I am so proud she didn’t change it (his work),” he said. “That’s how you know you got it right.”
The “she” is Diana Weber-Gardener, who along with then-boyfriend and now-husband Tim, first painted the mural. She organized the volunteer effort that drew more than 50 people of all backgrounds to aid in its restoration. The youngest volunteer was 5.
Ms. Weber-Gardner said that one of the volunteers who stood out was the 17-year-old firefighter who got a call in the middle of painting. “He said, ‘I’ve got to go fight a fire, I’ll be right back.’”
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural, former Mayor John Park said it is the next generation that needs to stay involved in the community to keep it strong. “Our town has gone through a lot in the last few months, and this is needed,” he said.
Carol Kovac, a member of the Bicentennial Committee, called the mural “a wonderful gift to the community.” “It shows that young people with an idea and a dream can do extraordinary things.”
On Saturday, the township took its turn as host.
The crowd got its money’s worth with a softball game between the city and township. For seven innings, the township matched run for run until a seventh-inning rally fell short and the city walked away with a 4-3 victory.
Chardon Mayor Phil King earned a new nickname, “Homerun King,” after his blast over the left-field fence helped his team to victory. The sting of the loss may not last for long as the township challenged the city to an annual contest.
A trophy awarded to the winners will stay in the city because of its significance with the bicentennial, Mr. Sharpe said, adding a new trophy will be shared between winners of future contests.
Following the game, the township hosted “Thistletown USA” a theatrical performance that chronicled the community’s history. It included a bit of fancy, but also borrowed from real life, stories such as Ward Baptie’s letters to his wife from the World War II frontlines and the story of Ariel Benton, a relative of Chardon Township’s Fred Wilder, who kept a diary of his trip to and life in Chardon in 1815.
Chardon comes from a French word meaning thistle, a tenacious plant that holds fiercely to its roots and aptly describes those who call Chardon home, said Jim Blum, who served as master of ceremonies for the event. The more than 700 visitors to the township celebration were treated to an ox roast and a bonfire to complete the evening.
On Sunday, a parade and a tribute to distinguished Chardon citizens was part of the festivities.
Tony and Katie McGowan traveled from Strongsville with 5-month-old son Tony to see their 93-year-old grandmother, Virginia Huxel, be honored among those distinguished citizens. Their trip was a short one compared to Ed and Jennifer Huxel, who arrived from Texas to see his mother honored.
Mrs. Huxel worked as a school teacher for St. Mary’s School in Chardon. Marsha Huxel of Perry said it was Mrs. Huxel, along with husband George, who were instrumental in bringing a senior center to the county. A banquet room at the senior center is named in their honor.
The celebration was capped Sunday with a rare sight, fireworks shot off on Chardon Square. People packed every tree lawn and the streets along the square to witness the fireworks shot off from the roof of the building at the southeast corner of the square.
It was so well received, Mr. Sharpe said, that many people asked if it could be made an annual tradition. The low-impact fireworks used for the show, however, are more expensive than the ones traditionally seen at Chardon High School for the July 4 celebration. That added cost may make future shows like the one Sunday too expensive for the community, so those who witnessed the show may just have to settle for being another part of Chardon’s unique history.
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